In a rare example of Apple’s ability to admit a mistake, numerous sites have reported on Steve Jobs’ letter to employees about the poor decision to launch MobileMe at the same time as the iPhone 3G. Usually Apple times these things pretty well – but everyone knows how poorly executed this launch was. What I find interesting is the marketing spin on this. Steve blamed MobileMe – which in itself is an admission of failure of the service it replaced (.Mac). And .Mac replaced another failure (anyone remember eWorld?) So in one way Apple protected the iPhone brand while letting his budding MobileMe brand take the hit (and a few employees were shown the door for good measure.) This is good damage control – they have the time to get MobileMe to live up to its potential but they want the sting of the the iPhone launch to fade fast.
Since I left Apple in 1999 I’ve been involved in many Internet software startups and I can tell you that the business of creating and testing web applications is very different from other consumer goods. You MUST include customers in the live testing. Beta testing web applications with real users from GMail to Dimdim is now the norm and Apple failed in trying to keep the product out of user’s hands until the last minute. Will be interesting to see if they change their habits now.